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Feathertop, short story (prose), narration and description, the ordinary and the miraculous; Sella, short legend (poetic), the human and the superhuman ; The Declaration of Independence, important State paper; Michael, narrative poem based on real life ; The Ancient Mariner, narrative poem based on supernatural occurrences; Lincoln's First Inaugural Address, discussion of a problem in statesmanship; The Gettysburg Speech, short public address ; The Chambered Nautilus and To a Waterfowl, spiritual interpretation of a particular fact in nature; A Forest Hymn and A Psalm of Life, meditative, philosophic poetry; The Bunker Hill Monument Oration, sustained oratory; Self-Reliance, exposition ; To A Skylark, A Lament, Highland Mary, The Bugle Song, and Crossing the Bar, lyric poetry; The Merchant of Venice, drama.
During the preparation of this text valuable suggestions have been received from teachers of learning and experience, especially Supt. W. H. Elson of Grand Rapids, Michigan, Dr. E. A. Allen of the University of Missouri, and Dr. C. A. McMurry of the University of Chicago, for which grateful acknowledgment is here expressed. Suggestions for the improvement of the book, which teachers who use it may wish to offer, will be most thankfully received ; for the single purpose of the authors is to advance the effective teaching of English literature in our secondary schools.
We wish to acknowledge our obligations to Messrs. D. Appleton & Co. for permission to publish poems of Bryant ; and also to Messrs. Houghton, Miffin & Co., the authorized publishers of the works of Hawthorne, Holmes, Longfellow, and Emerson, for the selections from those authors.
Truth is within ourselves ; . . . and “ to know”
The study of our literature has, during the last few years, reached the prominent place it deserves in the curricula of our schools and colleges. The question, “ What is the purpose of the study of English literature in schools ? " has arisen. In addition to the development of the mental and moral natures which affords increased capability to use and enjoy the opportunities and experiences of life, the answer is, that it gives the power of appreciating the higher art forms of our language, that it enables the learner to assimilate the thought and experience of the world, and that ideas are made clear and definite through self-expression.
With the great majority of people reading is not a business, but either a pastime or a recreation. Consequently, they read what they most enjoy, — women, passion ; the thinker, character and philosophy; the crowd of average men, action. But there are different kinds of pleasure, and the highest is rarely, if ever, innate ; it is the result of culture. The more tangible and visible art forms - architecture, sculpture, painting seem to attract all classes of people with an almost equal power ; not so with the subtler and higher forms, music and literature. The appreciation of classic works in these arts must be cultivated, and progress is usually by slow degrees. It is the privilege and duty of the teacher so to train the taste of the child that when he has reached maturity, he will be content only with that which is true and pure in its power to affect life.
1 Cf. Victor Hugo's Introduction to Ruy Blas.
The first year of the secondary school life is chiefly a period of preparation for future work. The young student begins to appreciate what there is in literature for him and to learn how to study. Here the teacher faces difficulties. The subject is so new that text-books, outlining definite work for students and suggesting to teachers means to ends in the way of guiding the self-activity of learners, have not been published. The subject has not the attractiveness of novelty that sustains the interest in the other first-year subjects. In the lower schools, reading, writing, spelling, memory gems, and word study are taught. Now the learner must continue to do all these things, but more thoroughly and extensively than before. In addition, the learner should acquire ideals of character and make vital the purpose of literature in applying his new ideas to the perplexities of human life and conduct.
Ideals are abstract ; literature is concrete. Literature is fine art, not ethics, nor philosophy. It instructs and edifies while it furnishes æsthetic pleasure ; and the highest revelation of this art is its power, mainly through oral expression, to thrill and influence humanity everywhere. The chief purpose of this book is to assist in the attainment of this complex though integral result.
The fundamental principle of teaching is, that progress must proceed from the self-activity of the learner. The desire to learn may be spontaneous or cultivated, according as the interest is immediate or remote. In the progress from the vague to the definite, the steady purpose of the teacher is to inspire activity and guide it to purposeful ends. The first steps in understanding and appreciating